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Birchwood Kitchen to Close Sunday After 6 Years, New Ownership in Works

By Alisa Hauser | October 5, 2015 4:23pm
 Inside Birchwood Kitchen.
Inside Birchwood Kitchen.
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WICKER PARK — Birchwood Kitchen, a busy BYOB brunch and lunch staple that opened six years ago along what was then a much lesser-trafficked stretch of North Avenue in Wicker Park, will serve its final brunch on Sunday, according to its owner who is selling his business.

"I've had the time of my life; it's been a wonderful job, but we all have other things we've got to work on," said Judd Murphy, Birchwood Kitchen's founder and owner.

Murphy and a former business partner Daniel Sirko opened Birchwood Kitchen in April 2009.  

Murphy said he is in the process of finalizing a sale of Birchwood Kitchen to "a local owner with a few other restaurants in the neighborhood" but declined to elaborate on whom until the deal is done.

"Under the current management, meaning myself and chefs and front of the house, Sunday is the last day and [Birchwood] will be closed for a little while for the new owners to get feet wet. There is a chance they will turn it into a new restaurant too," Murphy said. 

Alisa Hauser says the future of the Birchwood location is uncertain:

Describing Birchwood Kitchen's customers as "incredible," Murphy cited some life factors as weighing into his decision to move on, such as the fact he is getting married, going to graduate school and working at a different family-run business. 

"It worked out it was best [to sell] rather than try to force it. Better to hand it off to someone else that can freshen it up, make it great," he said.

Birchwood Kitchen's Chef Alex Gonzalez, who recently replaced Chef Jesse Williams who headed to Andersonville's Pastoral in August, said so far people have seemed sad to hear about the changes.

"We catered one person's wedding here; it's sad but good things are on the horizon," Gonzalez said.

Located at 2211 W. North Ave. about two blocks west of Wicker Park's Milwaukee, Damen and North Avenues intersection Birchwood Kitchen replaced Cold Comfort, a neighborhood deli that had also attracted a loyal local following. Cold Comfort closed in 2008.

Mainly known for its sandwiches and breakfast fare, Birchwood Kitchen added dinner hours and replaced its counter ordering strategy with table service last fall.

"Dinner service was kind of slow but we still have 90-minute waits on brunch and lunch is very busy. This has more to do with people moving on," Gonzalez said.

Murphy predicted that North Avenue will continue to grow as a destination. 

"The only way to grow is to go west. All the other areas are saturated and more people are going west [of the Milwaukee, Damen and North intersection]. With the boutique hotel coming, it will only get better," Murphy said, referring to an 89-room hotel at 1608 N. Milwaukee, slated to open in mid-2016.

Naomi Levine, a Bucktown resident and pastry chef who was a regular at Birchwood Cafe and went there with clients and friends, said she found out about the closure through a friend who was told by a server over the weekend that this week would be Birchwood Kitchen's final week.

"[Birchwood had] the best ambience and decor. There was never a complaint and the staff and food were outstanding. I don't want to see them be a statistic. Why are all the good people closing?" Levine asked.

Birchwood Kitchen, 2211 W. North Ave.; Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The dinner menu is available Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 9 p.m.

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